As kids with vision problems grow older, many choose to switch from wearing eyeglasses to contact lenses. Teenagers often prefer the no-glasses look and the convenience of not having to keep track of their glasses throughout the day. Contacts are a great alternative to glasses, but they do require attentive hygiene care and should be removed when swimming and sleeping or napping to help prevent eye infections.
A recent report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) shows more than 85 percent of adolescent contact lens wearers report habits that increase eye infection risk.
The CDC report is the first to analyze wear and care habits of the roughly 3 million U.S. adolescents age 12 to 17 who wear contact lenses, the agency said.
"Contact lenses are a safe and effective way to correct your vision when they are worn and cared for as recommended," Dr. Jennifer Cope, medical epidemiologist in CDC's Waterborne Disease Prevention Branch, said in a press release. "However, adolescents and adults can improve the way they take care of their contact lenses to reduce their risk of serious eye infections."
Researchers noted that the habits that put teens at highest risk for eye infections are sleeping with their contacts in, not being examined by an eye doctor once a year and swimming without removing their lenses first.
In addition, 52 percent of the teens didn’t replace their lenses as often as prescribed.
The most common eye infection from wearing contacts is keratitis, a contamination of the cornea - the clear outer covering of your eye. Sometimes they are called corneal ulcers. Viruses, bacteria, fungi, and a rare but serious eye parasite can cause keratitis.
The signs of an eye infection can include:
· Extra tears or sticky gooey drainage from your eye
· Blurry vision
· Light sensitivity
· Itching, burning or feeling like there is something in your eye.
· Eye pain
If your teen complains of any of these symptoms or you notice that your teenager seems to be having eye problems, get him or her to an eye doctor as soon as possible and make sure they don’t wear their contacts until they are examined.
Eye infections from poor contact lens hygiene habits can lead to serious problems, including blindness, the CDC warns.
Teens are often in a hurry and have a lot on their plates these days. It’s easy to get a little lax about going through the steps to make sure that their contacts are cleaned properly and when you’re really tired, you can simply forget to remove them before bed. You may have to occasionally remind your teen to do these things.
Of course, teens aren’t the only young age group that wears contacts. Kids as young as 10-12 years old can wear them, but experts recommended waiting until a child is 13-14 years old.
I can tell you from experience- once you’ve had an eye infection from not handling your contacts properly, you’ll remember the next time you wear them to make sure they are clean and to take them out when you go to sleep or swim. It’s an ugly and painful experience!